Royal Trux
Royal Trux

When Royal Trux released Accelerator in 1998, I remember there being a distinct amount of apathy by all but the most ardent of fans (like myself). Rock was supposedly dead, and the Trux’s particular brand of thorny, stoned-out ruckus had gone out of fashion. The white belts (as the hipster sect was known back then for obvious reasons) had already written them off as passe. Sure, Sweet Sixteen, Accelerator’s predecessor and the second album the band recorded after signing a big-money deal with Virgin, wasn’t a rip-roaring success on any front commercial or artistic, but those busying themselves with Godspeed You Black Emperor, Stereolab or whatever “post-rock” would have better spent their college years scouring the cut-out bins for every copy of the album they could find.

It’s probably safe to say the world was never ready for whatever incarnation Royal Trux took, as the band was always one step ahead at every turn, even when creating albums like Twin Infinitives completely smacked out. But with The Kills’ stylist aping the Trux’s aesthetic and toning it down to something more palpable in the decade since Neil Haggerty and Jennifer Herrema split, maybe the waters have finally warmed enough for the band to crossover with this reissue.

Nah. One listen to the earfuckery of Accelerator, the band’s return to Drag City after they ripped off Virgin, is a reminder of the forever prickly nature of the duo. By Trux standards, Accelerator was a very accessible record, but then Trux standards existed on a continuum only loosely related to the other whole of rock & roll. I don’t suppose anyone without an already existing condition for this kind of idiosyncrasy is going to dig it retrospectively, at least not only 12 years out.

Not that I really care. I can listen to nothing but Accelerator for weeks on end and enjoy it endlessly both cerebrally and viscerally, so it’s of little matter whether anyone else realizes it’s the masterpiece I know it to be. “I’m Ready” starts the record, but it comes on like one came into the song mid-thought. While lesser heads would have turned its big refrain into something more anthemic, the Royal Trux keep it lean. With the riff shifting between a growl and a whine and the drums kept to a minimal tapping, the song might seem half-baked, but its very slipperiness and Herrema’s contained wildcat yowl add just enough focus to the song’s shifty nature.

“Yellow Kid” is the kind of bluesy dirge that’s always been a part of the Trux’s MO, but even here it’s as if “Lady Godiva’s Operation” is being cranked out somewhere in the distance. At the heart of Accelerator, though, are cuts like “The Banana Question” and “Follow the Winner,” which clank with beats and hooks, but are as much passing impressions as complete thoughts. But the Trux also boil things down further, with “Juicy, Juicy, Juice,” the record’s first single, being nothing but a deconstructed funk groove. Similarly, “Liar” is all riff, Hagerty carving out a jagged line from molten steel. Even here, though, if one listens carefully, the sonics never sit still, with little noises trickling down the back of your eardrum. Accelerator was a pinnacle of sorts, even if neither the band nor anyone else knew it at the time. Maybe we can bestow Hagerty and Herrema with their laurels now—if they’ll take them.
Stephen Slaybaugh